Facing competition from Hollywood (and other regional film industries), the rise of streaming services, the once mighty Bollywood industry seems to be facing a crisis.
Here’s what’s hitting Bollywood hard, and what it needs to be wary about:
Home Entertainment Options
There are more home entertainment options for Film fans in India, with streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime available in India; they now have access to a wide range of content than ever before. Although Bollywood produces hundreds of movies every year, viewers find only a handful of movies worth watching, and prefer to watch movies with more substance at home.
Threat from Bollywood & Regional Cinema
While many filmmakers are downplaying the massive success of Jungle Book in India (calling it a one-off case), the fact remains Bollywood faces stiff competition not just from Hollywood, but also from regional cinemas (Tamil & Telugu industry). Even Marathi film Sairat grossed more than several Bollywood films that were released at the same time.
Top Stars are Too Expensive
Today, the top Bollywood stars command exorbitant prices and also take a profit of the films earnings, making them un-affordable to most studios and producers (even the bigger ones). For example, Shah Rukh Khan can command up to 50 per cent of a film’s budget (its never more than 20 per cent in Hollywood.)
However, the percentage is likely to come down eventually, as the budget of Bollywood films grows bigger.
Too Much Dependence on Well-Known Stars
Although the scenario is slightly better now, many productions still find it less risky to have several well-known actors in a movie with a mediocre story, than to invest in movies with great (or unusual) stories. For most movie producers, making profit is a bigger motivation than making a good film.
Not Willing to Think Original
No doubt several movies with ‘intriguing’ story-lines are getting made, most of them are still low-budget movies and such movies find it difficult to get big stars on board.
Most big movies still rely on Hollywood (and films from other countries) for inspiration. Getting inspired still means photocopying to most film-makers in Bollywood.
Remakes are still given lot of importance (looks like easy, risk-free money for most producers).
You Become a Model First and Then Actor
Surprisingly, its only in Bollywood (and even in other regional cinema), that you learn acting after you have made your acting debut in the industry.
For many, the route to becoming an actor in Bollywood, is first to become a model (most aspiring actors don’t even consider television).
Same goes for the producer’s son/daughter and star kids, who get the right kind of backing to play the hero/heroine of the movie.
So you find very few actors like Om Puri or Naseeruddin Shah who have slogged in theatres.
Not Enough Cinema Screens
Film producers wish there were more screens in India. Compared to US & China, India has much fewer screens, despite a robust demand for films.
No wonder, every time two big movies clash at the box office, there’s always a big fight for the screens (because they’re usually catering to the same audience.)
Ticket Prices are Low
Several film producers and distributors in India feel that the ticket prices are too low in India, compared to most foreign countries.
While this may be true, lot of cine-goers in India feel that the prices are high (when combined with the cost of snacks).
So the downside to raising the ticket prices is that it could force fans to watch pirated versions.
Piracy Eats Into the Business
Piracy is a big problem in India, although digitisation of movie theatres has curbed piracy somewhat, but it is still a big issue. Almost every big Bollywood release faces this threat, and makers remain alert to see if a pirated version has leaked out.
Tapping the Merchandise Business
while film merchandise is a big business in Hollywood, in terms of percentage its a very small number in India. Although film producers have started exploring this revenue stream, the merchandise business in India still needs to take-off.